Interpreters are often referred to as translators and people are not always aware of the differences between the two professions (interpreters vs translators). How are they different?
Interpretation is carried out in real-time (simultaneously) or very close to it (consecutively). Interpreters have very well developed short-term memory retention, good note taking skills, and an exceptional attention span. Generally, they will study a limited number of subjects and become experts in those areas (for example legal or medical). They will also review any complex or technical topics before specific assignments to refresh their real-time recall and vocabulary.
Translation occurs after a text is created by an outside source in one language and needs to be converted into a text in another language. Translators generally use reference materials, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, technical manuals, etc., and may also consult other linguists or subject matter experts in order to produce a highly accurate end product. This allows translators to develop a large number of areas of expertise. They also have great writing skills and are pros at using computer-assisted translation tools.
Interpreters work at EXTREME speeds as they have to receive, understand, manage, and reconstruct information into another language within seconds. A translator works at a more MODERATE pace to ensure a more accurate and polished product. Translators can also edit and review their end product multiple times, meanwhile, interpreters rarely get a chance to go back and polish their work.
An interpreter must be fluent in both the original language (source language) and the target language to be able to interpret in both directions, on the spot, without any reference material. Both of the languages are actively used, therefore, referred to as “active.” A translator works in one direction – translating into their native language. Translators do not have to be fluent in the source language (passive) as an interpreter must be, thus, a translator may have many passive languages!